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Ms Stephanie (New York)

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Andalus: Moorish Songs of Love and Wine (Poetry of Place)
Andalus: Moorish Songs of Love and Wine (Poetry of Place)
by Ted Gorton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.20

5.0 out of 5 stars Lively, thoughtful and beautifully published, 9 Dec 2009
A brief spell wandering around the Alhambra during a college-years summer in Spain left me permanently curious about the history of Muslims in Spain. The poems in this pocket-size book bring Andalusian culture to life in a breathtaking way - the translation feels so natural and immediate, but learned at the same time. I showed the book to some friends one night, and soon we were passing it around and reading bits out loud, all fighting to hold back from laughing at some lines while wondering at the power of others. Compelling stuff that will stay by my desk always!


Lebanon (Through Writers' Eyes)
Lebanon (Through Writers' Eyes)
by T.J. Gorton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.45

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure trove of an anthology, 9 Dec 2009
I didn't want to put this book down! The texts, mostly from foreigners who traveled through Lebanon, describe the history and the beauty of the country wonderfully. I opened the book expecting to encounter war, anger, and grief, and while the writing does justice to these hard facts of Lebanese life, it also celebrates the place in such a vivid way that the landscapes and communities feel familiar to me now. I especially loved the variety among the contributors - from Lucian to Colin Thubron, there's a real richness of elegant and funny voices to discover. I wish I'd read this before visiting Lebanon. It's a definite (and entertaining) required-reading book for anyone who plans to go!


The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
by Rebecca Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.51

24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something dark lurks in the retirement village..., 26 Jun 2008
Rebecca Miller is a writer of awe-inspiring range. The Private Lives... is perfectly crafted and Pippa Lee is quite a feat of character - I now find myself looking at 50something women in the supermarket, wondering if they are harboring Pippa-like rebel pasts. I read the book in a couple of sittings and was immensely satisfied by the twist at the end. It's rare that such a slim volume gives the reader so much, and goes to show that quality literary writing can also pull off the trick of being compulsively page-turning too.


We Are Now Beginning  Our Descent
We Are Now Beginning Our Descent
by James Meek
Edition: Hardcover

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Are Now Beginning an amazing literary love story, 19 Feb 2008
James Meek's reading in Blackwell's, Edinburgh last night showed his audience that the only thing more exciting than reading his books is listening to him be so articulate about them. We Are Now Beginning Our Descent (one of my favourite title choices in ages) is completely different from The People's Act of Love, but likewise says something original and true about how people operate now, in a war-fatigued, globalised world. It was great to see the range of readers the book has attracted, judging from the other audience members at Meek's gig yesterday - everyone from retired Edinburgh literati to young immigrants (and his sister, artist Joanna Kane).

Yet it isn't only a political novel or a war novel - it describes what it's like for a disillusioned man to alienate himself from his friends (spectacularly), become convinced he's in love, allow his emotions to fly him to rural America and then have his expectations thrown for a loop by the strange, complicated woman he elected to fall for. The book asks fascinating questions: how many different ways are there to sell out? When we feel things most strongly, is it because we're deceiving ourselves more than usual? This fairly miserable character, Adam Kellas, has a strange pull on the reader, and it all rings weirdly true.


The Complete Peanuts 1953-1954 (Peanuts): 2
The Complete Peanuts 1953-1954 (Peanuts): 2
by Charles M. Schulz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How do I love Peanuts? Let me count the ways..., 24 Jan 2008
I used to rely on the back pages of newspapers for my Peanuts fix; now I can binge with a heavy hardback. Good grief! This has an introduction by an unlikely but super-enthused Peanuts fan, Walter Cronkite (a famous CBS news anchor, for any Europeans who don't recognise the name), and includes all of the strips from the cartoon's 3rd and 4th years of existence. It's fascinating how different the characters looked back then. I look forward to following my hero, Lucy, 'the nation's foremost authority on jumping ropes', through the next few volumes. May there be many.


A Night Out with Robert Burns: The Greatest Poems
A Night Out with Robert Burns: The Greatest Poems
by Robert Burns
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a box of chocolates..., 24 Jan 2008
I picked up this beautifully-produced book with a Scottish friend in mind, and we both liked the way Andrew O'Hagan links the greatest Burns poems with contemporary news / talking-head quotes and personal stories. It makes you realise how roving and exotic for the times Burns' life was. But the poems also speak for themselves, and the book introduced me to a few I'd overlooked before. Great idea to set up the two writers!


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